Asian Americans tackle issues about community
K.W. Lee among speakers and community figures at event
March 19, 2008 11:43 AM
“You are the new America,” said K.W. Lee, in front of 137 participants and volunteers at SF State’s Seven Hills Conference Room.
The award-winning investigative journalist was the keynote speaker at Challenging the Myth: Uniting Community on March 15.
The event, comprised of different workshops, dealt with the different issues in the Asian American community. The workshops tackled issues like the criminalization of sexually exploited Asian American minors and incarcerated Asian American men and women, to deportation among Southeast Asian Americans.
Lee, the first Asian immigrant to have worked for a mainstream daily, did an investigative piece on Chol Soo Lee that helped proved that he was wrongfully accused after being imprisoned for 25 years.
“The government enforces harsh laws like the ‘3 Strikes You’re Out’ law, which makes it difficult for wrongfully convicted felons to reenter the community,” Chol Soo Lee said.
Both K.W. Lee and Chol Soo Lee were in the event to share their experience.
“They really put themselves out there,” Asian American studies lecturer Loan Dao said of the former incarcerated men and women that spoke that day. “I commend them for their courage for really making themselves vulnerable to the audience and sharing their personal stories.”
Dao said that the silencing of the Asian American issues is one of the biggest problems in the Asian American community, and that the event brought up these issues.
The event started with a panel discussion and question and answer period on the different issues. Participants were then given different one-hour workshops that they could attend.
Mike Kinoshita and Sujung Kim from the SF Public Defenders Office led a workshop regarding reentry challenges for API prisoners coming out of prison. As public defenders, Kinoshita and Kim discussed the difficulties of placing formerly incarcerated community members into programs that best fit their language capacity.
“If you’re constant with [them], you’ll see that they want to learn,” said Peter Kim, coordinator for Streetside Productions and managing director for East Bay Asian Youth Centerworks, which deals with high-risk youths involved with crime. “We challenge youth to dig deep and record issues in their lives.”
Elizabeth Sy of Banteay Srei, an East Oakland-based organization that works with young women and girls aged 14-19 that are at risk or are being sexually exploited, held a workshop where she asked participants to write on a piece of paper if they know anyone who is in the sex work business. The paper was then crumpled and thrown into the middle of the room and then redistributed randomly, to provide anonymity, to the participants to be read.
Around four “yes” answers were produced in a room of about 20 participants. According to Sy, pimps and sex traffickers target young Southeast Asian Americans because they are in high demand in the sex work arena.
“It’s really surprising that there are a lot of cases like this [sex work] in the U.S., because I only hear about this stuff in other countries,” said SF State student Ricialg Paniaqui. Paniaqui participated in the workshop by Banteay Srei.
A special screening of "Sentenced Home," a documentary on Cambodian deportation was presented. Activist and coordinator of “Sentenced Home” Outreach Project, Many Uch, a former street gangster and deportable non-citizen answered questions regarding detention and deportation on local, state and national levels.
SF State health education major, Chantha Tina Sar, 24, hopes to gain a greater grasp on what’s happening with the Southeast Asian communities in terms of incarceration and criminalization of youth.
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